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Barry Cryer: A life ‘dogged by good luck’

“To be honest I haven’t had a career, just a series of incidents,” the late Barry Cryer told The Big Issue in his Letter to My Younger Self in 2009.

Veteran comedian and writer Barry Cryer has died at the age of 86.

Much loved for his appearances on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, Cryer also wrote for The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, Richard Pryor and many more.

Yet when Barry Cryer wrote his Letter To My Younger Self for The Big Issue back in 2009, he underplayed his star-studded decades in show business.

“To be honest I haven’t had a career, just a series of incidents. I’ve been dogged by good luck all my life,” he said.

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Barry Cryer was born in Leeds in 1935 and was educated at Leeds Grammar School.

Looking back on his 16-year-old self, he said, “In class I would say silly things and do impressions of the masters, but I certainly didn’t think I would end up doing it for a living.”

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Humour was initially a way for Cryer to attract the attentions of the opposite sex, after his moodier attempts failed. He told us that he wished he could go back and tell his younger self to quit pretending to be James Dean.

Barry Cryer's Letter to My Younger Self
Barry Cryer’s Letter to My Younger Self

“I’d tell the young Barry that posing on the corner will not help him get girls,” he said. “I used to smoulder a lot at parties and nobody came near me. Then I relaxed and thought, to hell with it. I started being silly and telling jokes and suddenly girls were interested because they were laughing. It took me a long time to realise that thinking I was James Dean wasn’t working.”

At 16, Cryer had no intention of turning “being silly and telling jokes” into a career, but when he thought about his heroes, he could see a pattern.

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Comedians were idols of mine,” he told The Big Issue. “Radio was king when I was a kid. Max Wall, who became a great character actor, was on radio a lot. I’ve never really thought about this before, but even then I was admiring people who made others laugh.”

Cryer’s career may have been a happy accident, but he did have one important ambition for his life.

“I’m often asked if I had ambition as a young man. My only ambition was to have children, which I’ve done,” he said.

“My dad died when I was five and my brother was in the merchant navy so it was just me and my mum. I was envious of mates who were in a family. To this day I get envious when people say ‘my dad’. When you have a family, it’s someone to come home to. Whatever’s been happening to you, good or bad, you can come home and tell someone about it. Loneliness is a hideous thing.”

Barry Cryer died on January 25 at Northwick Park Hospital. His son Bob Cryer said that he died “peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him”.

“He leaves behind him a lifetime of fun, joy, love and silliness,” he added.

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